Mr. Chu

Dave Grohl Is Not Their Drummer

In an age so dominated by dance, rap and thrash/rap, pop rock music is hard to come by. It has almost become the music that's ironically dangerous and out-of-style. The type of music that catches young listeners with airy choruses and clever, to-the-point lyrics still exists, but there's not much room for bands not associated with Dave Grohl or whose name isn't followed by a dash and two-plus digit numbers.

Is there room on MTV or the radio airwaves for one more? If so, Hackensack, New Jersey's Mr. Chu stands a chance of filling it. Chu's compact disc, "Chu's Next," represents the pop-rock sound with more root and musicianship than most of what dominates current airwaves. Chu grasps the pop-rock style, balancing both genres equally.

Singer/guitarist Doug Fallone provides the band with energetic, melodically pleasant and refreshingly danceable tracks. He travels along his guitar neck; touching the listener with notes going to and from the major scale, while singing with sarcastic wit and without upstaging the song's melodic theme.

The band is Blink-182 and Foo Fighters on the surface, but much more underneath. This gives promise to the notion that there is a band out there who can build on rock's current contemporary state. Fallone throws some Van Halen II and, as he puts it, Van Hagar licks in his leads. His band plays "name that musical influence" with the listener, serving up tastes of The Who and Led Zeppelin.

The three-piece is finished with a rhythm section of Ed Gunderman on bass and backing vocals and Chris Florio on drums. These two work together to give each track what it needs, but not too much or little. Some refreshingly odd timings and grungy bass lines are added, making it clear these guys are musically educated and know how to apply their knowledge.

A first listen of "Chu's Next" grabs you so much with its hooks that you don't give much notion to what's going on underneath. Each further listen will uncover musical styles of the past and present.

How and when did Mr. Chu form?

Doug Fallone: In fall of '91, Chris and I became friends in college because we discovered that we had a lot in common.

We both hated everyone else, we were both musicians who wanted to quit our record store jobs to be rock stars, we both had no real direction, nor ambition. We both loved to drink. We both had fairly distributed love for both Slayer and R.E.M. and hatred for both "Use Your Illusion I and II". So we jammed for a year or so and one night he says to me, "Hey, let's stay sober tonight and record some demos."

Then, we wasted several years playing our demos for our mums and dads and doing open-mics with some childhood buddy of mine named Ed. Then Chris says to me, "hey, let's do something with this, get gigs, go to a studio, etc." So, in '96, we took out an ad, jammed with some strangers, did some gigs and recording and promptly went back to hating everyone else. In early '99, Ed Finally joined the band full-time. We finished our first CD and started having fun.

Chris Florio: Doug and myself met in college, in the fall of '91. After a lengthy discussion of how unhappy we were with our girlfriends and how happy we were with Paul Stanley's solo album, I found out he wrote songs. Five years, numerous four-track recordings and jam sessions in his brother's old room, currently our rehearsal room, and new adventures in hi-fi later, we came to the conclusion that we should place an ad for a bassist. (We) got a bassist and a guitarist. The bassist quit, the guitarist stayed around for two years until we figured out that we were about as happy with him as our '91 girlfriends. Then we got Ed.

What types of music did you play then?

Doug Fallone: Pop rock is pretty timeless, so we still do some of the same originals live. We also jammed on Sabbath and AC/DC covers. All right, we haven't really changed that much, but on some of our early demos, I tried to emulate everything from Toad the Wet Sprocket to Van Hagar.

Chris Florio: We were pretty much two bands, since the guitarist also wrote. The power pop / alternative / Foo Fighter wannabes that we are now, along with a combination Pearl Jam / Tesla / STP band.

How have your musical styles changed and evolved since then?

Doug Fallone: I don't try to emulate Van Hagar anymore.

Chris Florio: I think we're much more concerned with coming up with great songs rather then worrying about what format they will fit in. We won't be doing jazz, blues or reggae, but if it's melodic, rockin' and/or fun, we'll do it.

Who are your primary songwriters?

Doug Fallone: I write most of the stuff and Ed writes too. Every now and then, Chris will drop a drumstick and stop playing to pick it up and we'll all go, "Hey, that sounds great. Let's lose the drums on that part!" So we all contribute really.

Chris Florio: Doug comes up with most of the ideas, while Ed will help him along and contribute some as well.

Can you take me through your songwriting process a little? Is it spontaneous or do you write in a structured manner?

Doug Fallone: Both, I suppose. To think of something, I have to stop thinking. Do you know what I mean? I'll wake up with a melody in my head or just play a lot until something comes out by itself. I think I usually have a chorus first and I always have music before words. The words are often just whatever comes out with the music, even if I don't fully understand them. I want to be one of those people that someone calls a genius, just on the simple basis that I confuse them.

How was the year 2001 for Mr. Chu and what do you see in your future for 2002?

Doug Fallone: 2001 was fine, thanks. We played the NYC Marathon that was a lot of fun and inspiring.

In 2002? One of two things. Either this is the year we make it big. MTV beach parties, frat kegger dudes in baseball caps dancing around us or, if that doesn't happen and we give up and pack it in, "Break through or break up." That's what mama always told me.

Chris Florio: 2001 was a great year for us. We played some amazing gigs, including the NYC Marathon, a movie theater that was screening a short film that included our music, the bar afterwards that the short film was about and a music festival in West Virginia.

Being in an original band can be very unrewarding at times and I feel we balanced the innovative and exciting things with the demoralizing / "why are we doing this" things.

We're very excited for 2002, which will see the completion of our new CD and touring to support it.

Can you describe your new CD a little? How will it be different from the first?

Doug Fallone: This one's going to be so much heavier! I always wanted to say that. We've been speaking with John Agnello about producing it. The only real difference between this one and the last is: instead of trying to rip off the Foo Fighters on any of the songs, we try to rip them off on like more than half of them.

Chris Florio: The reason it took us so long to come up with a second one was that we wanted the songs to be at least as strong as the first one. I'm glad we waited, because sometimes it takes you a year of playing a song until you realize you don't like it. And let's face it, recording and duplication is not cheap, but that's neither here nor there. That being said, I honestly feel this CD will be at least as good as the first one. Doug has matured a lot as a songwriter and we've gotten better as a band.

The CD will represent our different styles better. "Chu's Next" tended to pigeon hole us as trying to be the band that writes the theme song for the Friend's spin-off ... though that's still the ultimate goal for the band. That and listening to Fair Warning with Dave Grohl.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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